The science of biophysics – applying the laws of physics to study biological systems – has steadily risen to the forefront in biomedical research. Its foundations lie in work carried out by 19th-century physiologists. One significant contributor was Archibald Hill – born on this day in 1886 – starting with his research into heat production in muscle. As muscles twitched he could measure temperature changes as small as 0.00015°C. He went on, with Otto Meyerhof, to unravel the distinction between aerobic and anaerobic respiration, for which they received the Nobel Prize in 1922. During intense bursts of exercise, muscle cells can’t wait for oxygen to facilitate the necessary energy release. Instead, anaerobic respiration liberates energy without oxygen. After a burst of anaerobic exercise we pant heavily, so repaying the oxygen debt – a term coined by Hill – restoring our tissues to their resting state.
Written by Lindsey Goff
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.